Tradition is an effort. It crowds the schedule. It feels like “thou shalt.” You consider being sick. You worry about what to wear. You get angry at the people who are putting you in this position. And you do it anyway. You grumble the whole way there. You have at least one fight with your person.
Then it begins. And it carries you along. And you carry it along. Tradition. You somehow both ride on its shoulders and carry it on yours at the same time.
I regret saying I would teach in the fall. But maybe even if I hadn’t, I would still be feeling this urgency, this sense that I am at every moment letting something irreplaceable slip away with too little notice. This day is the only this day ever. I will never get this back. There will never be another. That is the feeling once the air changes, once the light changes, once it is sharp.
I talked on the telephone to Mum and she said she’d smelled fall in the air the morning before. I said it hadn’t happened yet here. And then the next day it did. Fall. Fall. It is the right word. There is flail or there is surrender, but there is only one way it will go. Fall.
I have nursed a secret desire to be a housewife – or, even better, a live-in housekeeper – for many years. It replaced my earlier fantasy of living in a convent (I imagined austere stone rooms and lots of time to read in enforced silence). I think it all comes from a longing for order and routine. And a desire to hold higher – and deeper – the very smallest acts of caring: sweeping, polishing, dusting, ironing. The care for inanimate things an extension of care for life itself. And an appreciation for the aesthetic experience of ordinary life. There are connections between care, beauty, and meaning.
The idea and the reality are not so far apart – at least in the doing: the making of the bed, the folding of the laundry, the cleaning of the grout – but the cumulative experience – at least the intermediate cumulative experience as opposed to the end-of-life retrospective – is very different. At the end of a week or a month or a season of domestic labor, I tend to feel diminished by the invisibility of maintenance. Dishes piled in the sink are noticeable. Dishes put away and always ready are taken for granted.
This leads to the grand, domestic gesture, which is antithetical to the basic idea of quotidian pleasure: the over-the-top birthday party, excessive holiday decorations, too many pillows…or too many stuffed bunnies.
While not writing…
Though it doesn’t usually feel like it until months later, the time I spend avoiding my desk or avoiding the page is essential. If only I could remember in the moment that procrastination is part of my creative process. Instead, I agonize and judge. Maybe, though, the agony (and judgment) are as essential as the distraction.